(Little L carrying her basket of playsilks up the stairs)
Thank you so much for the beautiful, supportive comments on my last post. I realised when I was writing that it came across as a whole lot of over-thinking on such a simple subject of whether or not to have Lego in our home, but when habits become ingrained and you are so used to living a certain way change can be hard. But as children grow, their needs change and change becomes necessary.
Several of you asked the question, 'How do you cope with unwelcome toys/gifts?' What worked for our little family were several frank discussions with close relatives about our family values and how we made the decision that we would like the children to play with natural toys and most importantly, why we had chosen this path. It wasn't just some passing fancy, it was the way we wanted to live and bring up our children.
I know gift-giving is an emotive and complex subject, with many differing view points. Some people would say that it is not the parents choice to tell the gift-giver what to give to their children. I personally think it is the parents choice to decide what is suitable for their child's play environment, so with communication being the key, both parties can be happy with a little parental guidence. We are particularly lucky to have very understanding close relatives who are happy for us to suggest gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas a few months before these special occasions. Here a few ideas of how to stay plastic-free:
: : In the first year or two of becoming plastic-free we used to have the Myriad catalogue on hand (a UK based Steiner influenced natural toy mail order company) so we could talk with relatives about different gift ideas. Obviously, natural toys can be expensive so we made it clear that quality was so much more important than quantity when it comes to toys. After all, simplicity is key in our family anyway, so this was actually an advantage for us as we didn't want the children to become overwhelmed with too many toys. If being a plastic-free family is what you strive for and is something new for your family, then leaving a natural toy catalogue around when relatives come visiting is a great conversation starter on your hopes and dreams for your family life and perfect for opening up the lines of communication about how you would like to shape your child's play environment.
: : We love to suggest the idea of gift experiences, is there a day out your child/children would love? For Little L's Birthday last year, my parents paid for a family day out to a farm for the four of us. You can also send photos of your visit with a thank you note, so they know how much fun your child/children had as a momento.
: : Ask if relatives would be happy to contribute to one large, special present for your child. I remember one year, we asked all of the children's close relatives to contribute to a beautiful, wooden play kitchen and enamel pots and pans for the girls which was such an appreciated gift. It still gets played with everyday.
: :If your child has a birthday party and you are worried about the influx of plastic toys, or just toys in general, you could specify on the invitation 'No presents please, we would just love the gift of your company on ________ special day.' Or, on the invitation you could politely ask for gifts of crafting materials if your child enjoys making things. Another idea that seems quite popular, is asking the party guest to bring a gender neutral wrapped book with no gift label which gets placed in a large box when they arrive at the party. On the way out, along with their party bag they can choose a surprise wrapped book to take home so each child has a new book to enjoy.
Other people might say that relatives enjoy choosing gifts independently and do not want be 'told' what to give. While I can appreciate this, I personally think that the person gifting the present should respect the wishes of the family they are giving it too so as not to waste time or money on something that is not wanted in the first place. It is only fair to let relatives know of your dreams for your families play space well in advance of your little ones special day. I know that sometimes there can be power struggles in familes, where a relative might think that they 'know' best what to give to your child. If, even after you have discussed things and your requests are being ignored, it might be the moment to get tough and say that the unwanted plastic toys will be donated to a charity where they can be sold for a good cause. It is very rare that I give a present to anybody, without asking first if there is something they need or would like for themselves or their children.
What I do know is that if you are unable to talk to relatives about gift-giving for whatever reason, it is not worth sacrificing family relationships for the sake of toys, there are ways and means of weeding out unwanted plastic toys in your home at a later date...
Being plastic-free and having Waldorf-inspired toys in your home is simpler when you are living with babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers and slightly older but when they start hitting the age of six onwards, it can get trickier trying to meet the needs of the child and the values of your family, but that is a whole other blog post.
*Please note, that this is simply how we have coped with un-wanted plastic toys in our own family and is what has worked for us in our home*
As far as toys are concerned, our home has been 'plastic- free' for the past four years. We made this choice because we feel that toys made from natural materials are healthier to play with and if made from wood, wool or cloth are warmer to the touch compared to cold, hard plastic.
I'm such a purist about the type of the toys in our home that I found it quite difficult to introduce to Lego into the play area, especially seeing as we have been so careful to stay plastic- free. Although I personally found it hard to let go of my ideals about what are the 'best' toys for K and L, I knew I needed to think about what the children will have joy playing with. So I thought about the plus points of Lego:
: : It's open-ended and encourages creative play. I looked at the toy as a whole rather than at what it was made from. I wasn't not going to buy Lego just because it is made from plastic. But that doesn't mean I am opening the flood gates to plastic toys in our home.
: : It's BPA free.
: : Lego is a Waldorf 'equaliser'/'normaliser' for our home for when the chidren have friends over from non-Waldorf families as they get older. They don't attend a Waldorf school but a regular state primary school. Our play area is beautiful, but it does not have mainstream toys that six year olds expect to find.
: : Lego creates easy play opportunities between the girls and their Daddy. It looks like he will always be ready to help them build their creations or search for a specific brick.
We are keeping away from the media themed sets completely and decided to stick with the buckets of brightly coloured bricks as I wanted them to appeal to my 'girly' girls. Because of this we chose the My First Lego Town and the two starter boxes of Large Pink Bricks Box and the Small Lego Pink Bricks Box which contained pretty, brighty coloured Lego bricks. I am not sure how I feel about the new 'Lego Friends' sets, aimed specifically at girls through their design, not just from the colour of the bricks. I was shocked to see the new mini-figures, they seem to be a cross between Playmobil and Polly Pocket. I personally love how the tradtional mini-figures look! If I gave a box of the 'Lego Friends' to K and L though, I am sure they would love it.
I have a feeling that the Lego is going to get daily play! Miss K and Little L have already spent several hours playing with it today. We love our Lego here!
Are you a Waldorf/Waldorf-inspired/plastic- free family? Do you have Lego?
We woke up earlier then usual this morning and still sleepy, we pulled on our clothes to go and see the sunrise at Stonehenge to mark the winter solstice. Little L asked, 'What about my breakfast mama?' as we stepped outside into the darkness.
Miss K wondered if it was snowing, as she remembers walking through thick snow a year ago up to the stones, the mist so thick we couldn't even see the sunrise.
It was mild and clear as the sun came over the horizon just as the ceromony ended, bathing the first morning of winter with it's pretty, pale light.
: : The school Christmas fair.
: : The children decorating our fresh tree.
: : Carefully unwrapping our Ostheimer Nativity.
: : Folding rainbow Waldorf window stars from kite paper to bring pretty light to our days, including a golden yellow window star to sit above our Nativity.
: : Visiting the Christmas tree festival, alight with hundreds of twinkly lights amongst the medieval cloisters at Lacock Abbey...driving in the pitch dark in pouring rain and for a moment glimpsing a family trimming their Christmas tree as we headed for home. Such a seasonal sight. Little L asks, 'Why isn't the moon wearing a hat mama?'
: : Miss K and Little L playing before bedtime, by the light of the tree and candles. Magical.
: : A question from Little L, 'How many days until Father Christmas is here?'
Happy December days to you! What is happening in your homes during this season of joy?
We arrived at the Waldorf Winter fair at the school nearby to where we live. A shaft of sunlight illuminated the rainbow writing on the blackboard setting out the day ahead. How pretty!
Mud play in the Waldorf Kindergarten.
The Gnome Garden.
We have been visiting the Winter Fair at our local Waldorf school for a few years now and each time we have taken the children to meet King Winter. This year it was the turn of the Gnome Garden. It was dark, mysterious, beautiful and so very different from the King Winters of the past, which were always so magical, pure and white. Miss K led the way, walking through two draped, dark doors, into the Gnome Garden. Glowing lanterns and candles lit our way as a pupil from the Waldorf school pointed out and whispered to the children where the elves and gnomes were hiding and what winter activities they were doing in their secret world. Little needle-felted gnomes were skating amongst floating tea lights, fishing from an old tin bath tub, chopping wood to store for winter and decorating trees in their tiny candlelit homes. The children listened to every single word as they silently stepped through this magical land of gnomes. On the way out, they were presented with a small, wicker basket full of pretty glass stones. They chose one each, which they both kept in their pockets or clutched in their hands for the rest of the day.
Here is Little L eating her sandwich at the Waldorf Winter Fair at the weekend (photos to follow later on this week). There was lots of home baked food available at the fair, but as my two can be a little bit fussy when it comes to food, it is simpler for us to take our own lunch. This is our own organic homebaked bread. I try to cook from scratch as much as I can,although there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to make bread by hand so I use my breadmaker. It is very rare for us to buy bread from a shop or bakery now, it is so much cheaper and easier to make our own organic loaves at home, plus I know exactly the ingredients that go into them. After sandwiches and satsumas, the children picked out a chocolate cup cake each from the cake stall. I saw some gorgeous hot waffles being served, dusted with icing sugar with a topping of Nutella. I'm wishing I had taken a moment to try one now as I have never eaten a waffle before!
It's St.Nicholas eve tomorrow! These paper craft shoes are a great activity to make ready for the children to place outside bedroom doors with an offering of a carrot or hay for St.Nicholas's white horse or donkey. On the 6th of December, make sure a simple treat appears tucked inside the shoe.
St.Nicholas Centre- Discovering the truth about Santa Claus has a whole host of ideas on how to celebrate this day at home, it's a great way to bring fun and festivity into the early days of Advent!
It's dark outside, the curtains are pulled tight against the cold, wintery night and our home seems to be graced with a little bit of Christmas magic. We're pulling down boxes of Christmas decorations, checking fairy lights are still shining white. Miss K is chattering about writing Christmas cards to her class mates while Little L has been carrying around her sweet knitted Father Christmas until she found the perfect place to sit him before climbing into bed.
May the days ahead be full of warmth and light for you all!